Tag Archives: Danish Military Rolls

52 Documents in 52 Weeks #15: Danish Laegdsruller -Army Records

Today’s document isn’t a very common one, I don’t think, for American researchers. I have to give fair warning here that trying to find your ancestor in Danish laegdsruller isn’t for the fainthearted either.

What is “laegdsruller”? Well, they are Danish military levying rolls, sort of a draft list in case men were needed in the army. Generally, young boys were added to the rolls and given a number, like a U.S. Army draft number. These lists were kept up to date and theoretically they are a fantastic way to trace male ancestors as they moved about from place to place.

Except – and these are HUGE exceptions – the lists were much more commonly kept in villages and towns than they were in cities like Copenhagen. Another exception is that, while a number was assigned to each male, the number CHANGED when older men went off the list. Lastly, a man who entered military service was often removed from the local laegdsruller because he was no longer in possible draftee status.

I learned of the existence of these rolls while at the Family History Library in Salt Lake about six years ago. I was frustrated trying to find the parents of my Johannes Jensen, born about 1810 in Copenhagen. Searching military records was a suggestion by the reference staff there, particularly because my Johannes entered the Danish army in 1826 and made a career of being the company musician.

Why are these records so helpful? First, because of the patronymic naming system (Jensen meant you were the son of Jens, but Johannes’s son would have the surname Johannsen, or son of Johannes.) Because there were so many people with the same given and surnames, the father of the male enrolled on the list was recorded along with the boy’s age and his military number.

When a male actually joined the army, he often was given a “military name,” needed to sort out all the Jens Jensens, etc. Sometimes, his father’s name was on the official army list, sometimes not.

I can’t tell you how many hours – 100, maybe more – I spent over multiple trips to the Family History Library reading these rolls, trying to find my Johannes Jensen. Without the support of the staff to tell me what was even written on some of these pages and the guidance in being shown how to find the next list, I would never have found him. That’s why I said these records aren’t for the fainthearted.

Here is an 1834 actual military list that had a Hans Jensen on it. My guy had always appears in records as “Johannes,” but I couldn’t afford to leave any stone unturned with these records. He wasn’t my man, but this is a good representation of how the records look.

1834 Danish Army List

I realize this page isn’t the easiest to read, but that’s how most of the pages were on the microfilms. As an example, I’ve placed a red arrow next to the name Christen Jensen (Rosendahl?)

The first column “Amt” is his home parish. What it says, I don’t know. That is why I worked on this in Salt Lake! The three columns of numbers are his laegdsruller numbers – 16-129-105. Next, is his name and Rosendahl would be a military name to differentiate him from other Christen Jensens. After that is his age and height (which isn’t in inches, and the measure escapes me for the moment, but I was told it was close to today’s inches), so Christen is 30 years old and roughly 67 1/2 inches tall. The next column is day and year, but I’m not sure if it is when he entered that unit. It could be. The last column is for comments. Sometimes the “dod” (dead) notation is entered, sometimes the date of a promotion or whatever. I would again need help reading the information.

By tracking all of the Johannes Jensens from 1826 to 1854, I was able to eventually find my ancestor. I obtained his actual date of birth – 27 April 1810 – and the clue that the name of his father “wasn’t recorded” although all the other men on that particular list had their own fathers’ names penciled in. That clue was the chink in the brick wall that pointed to Johannes’s parents never marrying.

Was it worth it to spend all those hours slogging through all those microfilm rolls? I was definitely armed with Advil, but it was worth every second I spent because I found him.

If you have Danish ancestors that you have located in the 1800s, especially if they were rural dwellers as opposed to city residents or if you know that your ancestor served in the army, the Danish military rolls are definitely worth a look. They have been microfilmed, but be forewarned – you will likely need help navigating them.

Part 6 – Thinking Outside the Box to Assemble the Puzzle Pieces

I didn’t know it at the moment, but I was actually getting close to my goal of finding both Johannes’ date of birth and his parents’ names.

The big break came when the Danish researcher I hired in Copenhagen found the “10th Bataillon Stamlister for Underofficerer Beginning 20 Apr 1843 and Ending 7 October 1865.” Remember, the two military cards I found mentioned the 7th battalion on one and the 10th battalion on the other.

There was my Johannes Jensen, born 27 April 1810 in Copenhagen.! It gave the date he first enlisted, 30 March 1826, aged 15. It included the 14 September 1834 (probably re-enlistment) date I found on the other company list so I was sure this was the correct man. The one missing piece of information was his father’s name, which is often included on Danish military records.

The second big break came when found found Johannes Jensen on the “Regular Levying Rolls of Stilling, Skanderborg County, #63 Laegd.” (FHL film 40,135) Johanes was now 63-173-146. This particular list gave fathers’ names for all the other soldiers, but next to Johannes’ name it said “father not recorded.” Hmmm???

These discoveries happened over many months’ time. I continued to research Frits and his sisters in the Saeby church records and then started to ask questions outside the box.

Back in an earlier post, I commented how Frits had four given names in a time period when two were common and his sisters all had three given names. Yet, Johannes was just “Johannes” and his wife, Johanne Elisabeth, had the typical first and middle names. That was the first item that stuck in my mind as unusual.

Second, the Jensens had their children baptized (there were fines levied at the time for not baptizing children in a timely manner), but never had family or even apparent friends as sponsors.

Third, Copenhagen parish registers seem quite complete for the 1810 time period. I could not find a trace of anyone who could be my Johannes and his company military list, which named fathers of other soldiers, said his father was “not recorded.”

The fourth discovery really made me step back and look at the data that I had accumulated. In the early searches in Denmark, I had found baptismal records for all of Frits’s sisters, with the exception of Vilhelmine, who was living with him in 1880. The Saeby confirmation records solved that mystery, as they give the place of baptism for each child being confirmed. Vilhelmine was born in Copenhagen and baptized at the Fodselstiftelse, which I was told was the Unwed Mothers’ Hospital! Obtaining her records is a different story, but knowing that her parents were not married when she was born sent me back to Garnison and Trinitatis parishes where I had found other family records. I had not found a marriage record for Johannes and Johanne Elisabeth in Copenhagen, but I stopped looking at the end of 1840 and figured maybe they married in Sweden since she was born there. This time, I reread the baptismal records from 1840 to 1843, when daughter Emilie was baptized. On 8 May 1842, a stillborn child was noted in the records of Garnison Church as the child of Johanne Elisabeth Molin and “reputed father Johannes Jensen.” I then checked marriages there from 8 May 1842 to 18 May 1843, when Emilie’s baptism was recorded and her parents were married. On 31 August 1842, Johannes Jensen and Johanne Elisabeth Molin were married in Garnison Church! Discovering that Johannes and Johanne had two children before they married made me look at all these unusual pieces of information in a new way.

What if Johannes Jensen was also born when his parents were not married? Could he also have been born at the Fodselstiftelse??? The hospital records are divided into two parts because the mothers had the choice of anonymity or not and either keeping the baby or giving it up for adoption. The babies’ births are recorded with given names only in the birth registers. Each child has a corresponding code to identifying the mother and her file record. The Family History Library had the birth registers, but did not have the mothers’ records. That meant one more time having to hire a Danish researcher.  However, I could read the register for 27 April 1810 myself, which I did in Salt Lake City. The next post, Part 7, of this saga, will explain how the pieces came together.



Part 5 – Searching Danish Military Records

I am omitting some of the steps I took to complete the records of the  family of Johannes Jensen and Johanne Elisabeth Molin, but I used a combination of Danish census records and parish records. However, from those records, I found multiple records concerning Johannes.

1834 Census – Johannes Jensen, 25 years old, soldier boarding in a home; born in Copenhagen.


1840 Census – Johannes Jensen, 30 years old, soldier, unmarried; born in Copenhagen.

1845 Census – Johannes Jensen, 35 years old, soldier, married with family; born in Copenhagen.

1850 Census – Johannes Jensen, 40 years old, soldier, married with family; born in Copenhagen.


I’ve only posted the 1834 and 1850 censuses so you can see what they look like.  Johannes lived in Copenhagen at least until the 1850 census. Sometime between 1850-1855, Johannes retired from the military and the family removed to Saeby, a small village way up in the northern coast of Denmark, near Aalborg.

The family may have traveled by boat, but if they took the land route, it was a long trip. I haven’t found the reason for retiring to that area, but I suspect that Johannes may have had duty there at one time and liked it.  Johannes died in Saeby on 9 April 1865, aged 54.


From the census records (Danish censuses had a standard reporting date of 1 February), Johannes’s age consistently gave a birth date either in late 1809 or early 1810 in Copenhagen. The 1834 census gave is age as 25, but the other soldier boarding in the home was also reported to be 25. It is very possible Johannes was not in the home when the census taker came around and the head of household gave the names of the two soldiers and said they were both “about 25. ” While I was busy searching census records, I was also scouring church registers for a baptism record for any Johannes Jensen with or without middle names born about 1805-1812 in the Copenhagen area, but the few that I found were not mine.

During the time I was reading census and parish records, I decided to take a trip to Salt Lake City, as the Family History Library has films of Danish military records. Since I speak no Danish, I knew I would need a lot of help from the Scandinavian help desk. The military record search ended up taking several trips to Salt Lake in 2011 and 2012 plus I had to hire a researcher in Copenhagen to visit the State Archives to retrieve some records that had not been filmed.

Since Johannes had attained the rank of sergeant, I was hoping that I would be able to find some military records that would give me his exact date of birth.  One of the first sources I read was the “Index to Non-Commissioned Army Officers 1757-1860 Eberle-Jorrs,” FHL film #41,968. These records are in the form of 3 x 5 index cards with only basic information on each about one man’s military details.


The card on the left has his name on top. Below his first name is “Tamb” which I believe refers to him being a drummer. Underneath Jensen in parentheses is an abbreviation of some place. 7 B refers to the 7th Battalion. On the bottom, “stabstambour” is drummer and there is a date that appears to be 1851. Under that is “Arrestfor” and “Saby.” “Arrestfor” is an abbreviation for “arrestforvarer” or one who takes care of the prison. “Saby” could well be a misspelling of “Saeby.”

The card on the right has a birthplace of Copenhagen (Kobenhavn) and notes that he was a fiddler and in the 10th Battalion. However, neither has an exact date of birth.

I decided to assume for the time being that both of these cards referred to one man and that man was my Johannes Jensen. It fit with the census information and I was believing more and more that the military records were going to lead me to Johannes’ birth date and then to his baptismal record and parents’ names.

Next, I read films which contained records about the 7th Battalion from 1834-1860 (FHL #42,169 and #42,170). There was one and only one Johannes Jensen on the 1834 list of the 1st Jydske Infantry Regiment. This Johannes had last been in Skanderborg County, although it was abbreviated as “Skandby” and I didn’t know where that was. (Many thanks to the terrific FHL staff who cover Denmark.)


Johannes is the 5th man from the bottom of the list. An assignment, enlistment or transfer date was shown as 14 Sept 1834. The men listed at the bottom were apparent newcomers and there was less information listed for them than for the men listed above. I still had no exact date of birth, but this was my first experience with the laegd roll numbers. These numbers are similar to draft numbers in our military, but the laegd numbers change over time. In 1834, Johannes’ laegd number was 63-27-4.  I spent many hours and days reading roll after roll – literally hundreds of pages –  of military districts in Skanderborg County looking for Johannes. It turned out that apparently when the particular roll was taken, the man with number 63-27-4 was out of the district so his number was skipped! Not really surprising since every attempt I made to get closer to answers had a stumbling block.